Wednesday, January 19, 2022
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UK To Ban Flights From Southern Africa Over New Covid-19 Variant Concerns

Britain will ban flights from six southern African countries from lunchtime on Friday over concerns about a new Covid-19 variant detected in Botswana and South Africa.
The two countries will be added to a so-called “red list” which will also have Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK Health Security Agency is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.
“From noon tomorrow (Friday), six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.”
UK experts believe the variant, B.1.1.529, which is rapidly spreading in South Africa, can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines to as little as 30 percent.
The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant has a spike protein that was dramatically to the one in the original coronavirus that Covid-19 vaccines are based on. It has 32 mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.
Lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations resulting in greatly reduced vaccine efficacy, scientists said. Health officials have advised the UK government on the need to act swiftly and pre-emptively in case the concerns over the impact of variant are borne out, even though it could take weeks to generate all the information needed about its characteristics.
Earlier on Thursday, South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced the country has seen a dramatic rise in new infections, particularly in its economic hub of Gauteng.
“Over the last four or five days, there has been more of an exponential rise,” he said, adding that the new variant appears to be driving the spike in cases.

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